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August 14, 2012

DEADLY STING: First West Nile Virus death reported

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma health officials on Tuesday reported the first West Nile Virus-related death in the state since 2009 and issued a public health warning, saying they are concerned the potentially deadly disease will reach record numbers.

The victim is described only as an Oklahoma County adult over the age of 75, according to Dr. Kristy Bradley, state epidemiologist at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
There are 55 confirmed West Nile Virus cases in Oklahoma so far in 2012. The highest number of cases in a year was 2007, when 107 cases were confirmed and eight people died. At this point in 2007, 23 cases had been confirmed.
“It is a significant increase and we are currently on pace to report our worst West Nile Virus season ever in Oklahoma since it was identified here in 2002,” Bradley said. “That projects to 200 cases total, or more,” for 2012.
The disease has been confirmed in 14 counties, and the most cases are 14 in Tulsa County. Oklahoma County had the second-highest incidence with 12 cases.
There is no vaccine to prevent the virus in humans, and no drugs to treat it.
“Prevention is the key to protection,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “We urge everyone to use insect repellent when outdoors and to mosquito-proof their home as best possible.”
Health officials urge residents to use insect repellent containing DEET, avoid being outdoors in the early morning and early evening hours when Culex mosquitoes — which spreads the disease through its bite — are most active. Officials also say to drain standing water or treat the water with a mosquito larvacide, and to keep gutters free of leaves and other debris.
Those infected this year range from 12 to 90 years old, Bradley said. Thirty-seven of the cases are 50 or older, the most susceptible age group.
Many of those infected have developed what Bradley describes as a neuroinvasive form of the disease, the most deadly form.

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